This November, Rockhurst Student Has a Lot to Be Thankful For

Wednesday, November 27, 2019
Student Karen Bravo holding an American flag

Junior Karen Bravo had been looking at November 2019 on the calendar with some uncertainty, but also maybe a bit of anticipation.

Bravo, a finance and Spanish major, moved at age 7 with her mother and younger brother from Guadalajara, Mexico, to the United States. Her family had always been careful to maintain legal residency status. But becoming a citizen was potentially a longer, more involved process, and one that had a looming deadline of November 2019.

As that date approached, Bravo said she felt growing uncertainty. In May, she had turned in the application for citizenship, but knew from the experiences of others that nothing was assured. Having lived most of her life in the U.S. and paid her own way through the expensive legal process, Bravo said she couldn’t shake the feeling she might have to leave it all behind.

“My whole life is here now,” she said.

But then, something unexpected happened — not only was her application approved, but quickly. Bravo sent the application off in May, not expecting to hear anything for weeks. Instead, she got a letter back on June 7, 2019. Bravo said she was incredulous, but she wonders if she had some help.

“June 7 is actually the anniversary of the day my grandmother died,” she said. “So when this happened, I was like, ‘I see you.’”

Wilder still was the fact that the naturalization ceremony in August was not in a courtroom or conference room, as is more common — it was in Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals, with literally hundreds of others from across the world and booming announcements coming from the loudspeaker.

“I think it was over 40 countries and about 400 people,” said Bravo, who was joined by Gianna Carleo, assistant director of campus ministry, at the ceremony. “I saw that we’re all similar and so different at the same time, and that was beautiful.”

And though her final step in becoming a U.S. citizen was witnessed by hundreds at Kauffman Stadium and many more through a TV news report during which she was interviewed, Bravo said it wasn’t until after the ceremony that she started to share her experience with more of the campus community.

“I had kind of kept it to myself all these years,” she said. “But after the ceremony, people starting coming up to me and asking me about it and I realized it was a way to help other people understand — this wasn’t easy, but it made me the person I am.”

Now, with her mom and brother also earning permanent residency, Bravo said the weight has been lifted off her shoulders. And this Thursday, as her family gathers for a meal, she suspects she’ll have a lot to be thankful for.